Seasonally Fresh, Summer Confetti Salad

Every couple of weeks I host an “Open Garden” sale, out at our homestead.  It is a way for me to sell some of the surplus fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers from our gardens, give people a tour of our large food garden, and talk to them about sustainable farming practices, answering any questions they might have about starting or maintaining a garden of their own.  It’s usually a pretty small event, and I don’t make a whole lot of money from the sale, but I love getting to share the fruits of our labor with other people, and let them sample the amazing tastes of our fresh, homegrown, organic heirloom foods.

I often have a surplus of goodies leftover, for myself, after the sale, and I always want to use it up as quickly as possible, to take advantage of their freshness and so they do not spoil.

After this weekend’s sale, I had some leftover cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, jalapeno peppers, and cilantro, and I decided to use them all in a simple, one dish, light, summer salad.  It ended up being the perfect meal to end my long, busy day.

I kind of just threw this salad together, so I’m approximating on the ingredients.  Feel free to add more or less, to your own liking, and use whatever veggies you’ve got on hand to add to the salad and make it your own.

Summer Confetti Salad

Ingredients:

1 box whole wheat couscous (I think quinoa would make a great, gluten-free substitute – about 3 cups cooked)

2 cups raw almonds

2 cups corn kernels (frozen or canned is fine, if you don’t have fresh)

1 cup seeded, chopped cucumber

1 cup seeded, chopped zucchini

2 cups chopped tomato (I used quartered cherry tomatoes)

1 large bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (if you don’t like cilantro, you can substitute mint, or another fresh herb, like oregano)

1 jalapeno chili pepper, seeded

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1/8 cup lime juice

1 tbsp. honey

salt, pepper to taste

about 1 cup feta cheese crumbles (optional, and you can add whatever amount to your liking)

Assembly

Cook couscous according to package directions (I only use water and salt to cook it in), set aside.

Process almonds in a food processor until they are finely chopped.

Assemble dressing:  In a blender, combine jalapeno pepper, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, honey, 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper.  Blend until pepper is nearly liquified.

Assemble salad:  In a large salad bowl, combine couscous, almonds, vegetables, and cilantro, toss with dressing, then fold in feta cheese crumbles (if using).  Add more salt and pepper, if needed.

This is a really, great salad.  I love using fresh, seasonal produce from my garden, and I also tend to be a “one-pot” type cooker, so this salad is really the ideal recipe, for a cook, like me!

It is light, yet filling, and the flavors all work really well together.  One note:  the dressing is barely detectable, which I like, but if you want it to be more pronounced, you may want to double the recipe, especially the jalapenos, if you want it to be more spicy.

It makes a perfectly fine, stand alone meal, but would also be a great tag-along side dish for a potluck.

So, if you’re looking for a nice, light, cool, summery meal, or a new dish to bring along to your next potluck, why not give this salad a try?  I’ll bet you won’t be disappointed!

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My “Meatball” Mistake Turned Out Great!

Some of the world’s greatest inventions were created by mistake:  penicillin, pace makers, super glue, Teflon, and microwave ovens.   My attempt, the other night, at making vegan “meatballs” was a big mistake, too — they didn’t hold together very well, the outside layer of rice turned crunchy, and the taste absolutely did not mesh with the pasta and marinara sauce that I paired them with.  But just like all of those accidental inventions I mentioned previously,  my meatless meatballs calamity didn’t end in tragedy either.  Today I used the leftovers to create a simple, but filling salad for lunch that I think anyone would enjoy!

I started with the “Candle Cafe Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers” recipe that I found at The Engine 2 Diet (one of my favorite new sites for vegan recipes).  I altered the recipe, slightly, since my goal was to use the mixture to make meatballs.  I used:

two cups of dried, french lentil beans (homegrown, I might add)

two cups of organic, long grain brown rice

two cloves of minced garlic

one white onion, chopped into small pieces

one and one-half teaspoons of salt

one and one-half teaspoons of dried oregano

whole wheat flour

Italian bread crumbs

a little bit of milk to help with binding (okay, now I guess the recipe only qualifies as vegetarian.  Next time, though, I’m planning on using homemade rice milk)

Here’s how the “meatballs” were made:

In a medium saucepan, I brought 2 cups of water to a boil, added the rice, reduced the heat, covered, and simmered it for forty minutes.

In another saucepan, I cooked the lentil beans in water that slightly covered them until they were softened (this also took about forty minutes, and I don’t know why since the Engine 2 recipe says it should only take about fifteen minutes).

I drained and set aside the rice and beans once they were cooked.

Then, in a skillet, I sauteed the garlic and the onion until they were lightly browned

In a large bowl, I combined the lentils, rice, vegetables, and the salt.

This is where the trouble started.  I tried to shape the mixture into balls, but they just didn’t want to  hold together.  The Engine 2 recipe said to add a bit of flour to help, if needed.  I added, and added, but still couldn’t get the mixture to stick.  In order to keep the taste from going bland, I added some Italian bread crumbs, but, still, they refused to stay together!  That’s when I brought out the milk.  I added about three to four tablespoons.  This seemed to do the trick, and I was finally able to form the mixture into balls…

I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about twenty minutes, took them out, spooned them on top of some pasta, and ladled on some marinara sauce, and you know the rest of the story. 😦

I was seriously contemplating throwing the rest of them out, but I opted, instead, to keep the rest of the leftovers (boy, there were a lot of them) and I’m so glad I did!

Today, as I was looking for something to eat for lunch, I thought about using the “meatballs” to make a sandwich.  The plan was to make some homemade pita bread, and stuff it with the meatballs, lettuce, and a creamy cucumber dressing.  With all that I had going on today, I knew I wasn’t going to have time to make the bread.  Instead, I thought I’d just toss everything together in a salad…

First, I took a handful of mixed greens from the garden…

Then, I made a simple dressing out of (again, not completely vegan) about two tablespoons of sour cream, a third cup of mayonnaise, a teaspoon of mustard, about a tablespoon of cider vinegar,  two tablespoons of chopped, fresh chives, one-half of a cucumber, chopped,  and some fresh, cracked pepper…

I crumbled three of the meatballs into the salad, added the dressing, and…viola!  A delicious, protein-packed, nutrient rich, and filling salad that more than satisfied my taste buds – it sent me back for a second helping!

I’ll keep working with the dressing to bring it up to vegan standards, and I think the addition of chopped walnuts and maybe even some dried fruit would be welcome additions, but, who knew this  salad born from a “mistake” would turn out to be such  a surprisingly wonderful, and more than edible concoction?  It is definitely going to take its place in a rotation of new recipes that our family will  enjoy as we keep on learning how to eat to live!